London Mayor Ken Livingstone may be Jewish: “I could be a self-hater, couldn’t I?”

November 30, 2005


1. The case of The Guardian, Hizb ut-Tahrir, and New York mayor Ed Koch
2. British journalist speaks of her “Brother al-Zarqawi”
3. Giant mosque planned for 2012 London Olympic Games
4. Tesco removes anti-Semitic books from its shelves
5. Ken Livingstone: “the most odious man in Britain”?
6. “Mass murder” by “cowardly terrorists”
7. Ken Livingstone, told he may be Jewish, says: “I could be a self-hater, couldn’t I?”
8. A tale of two mayors: Rome and London
9. “From Palestine to London to everywhere”
10. “London mayor: Israel caused bloodshed” (Yediot Ahronot, Nov. 17, 2005)
11. “A tale of two cities” (Yediot Ahronot, Nov. 21, 2005)
12. “Ziauddin Sardar – on the culture of martyrdom” (New Statesman, Nov. 28, 2005)


[Notes below by Tom Gross]


On July 18, 2005, I wrote of Dilpazier Aslam in the dispatch titled Guardian staff journalist exposed as member of extremist Hizb ut-Tahrir and followed this up on July 26, 2005 in the dispatch Dilpazier Aslam, extremist member of Hizb ut-Tahrir, sacked by The Guardian.

To remind readers, among other things Hizb ut-Tahrir issued a leaflet saying “Kill them [the Jews] wherever you find them.” The group is banned in Germany under laws outlawing organizations which propagate Holocaust denial and is banned in several other European countries as a terrorist group. Following Aslam’s exposure by this list and others, The Guardian’s editor Alan Rusbridger gave Aslam the choice of renouncing Hizb ut-Tahrir or leaving The Guardian. Aslam chose to leave The Guardian.

Now Aslam, a British Muslim, is suing The Guardian at an employment tribunal claiming “racial and religious discrimination.” Some at The Guardian are nervous because Aslam plans to call as his key witness Albert Scardino, The Guardian’s former executive editor, who hired Aslam and defended Aslam during the controversy.

The Guardian’s lawyers might like to ask Scardino, who claims to be an opponent of “racial and religious discrimination,” about the interview he gave Vanity Fair magazine in New York while he was serving as press officer for the former New York mayor David Dinkins in the early 1990s. Scardino told the magazine that New York was no longer run by “tired old Jewish men” – a clear reference to former New York mayor Ed Koch, and hardly the kind of language used by opponents of “racial and religious discrimination.”



Yvonne Ridley is a former reporter for the British newspaper, the Sunday Express. She was captured by the Taliban while on assignment in Afghanistan and later became a Muslim and a vociferous defender of groups others label terrorists. She writes the following on an Islamic website about the recent Amman bombings:

“I mean we can not simply shrug our shoulders at the deaths of 61 people. But let’s have a closer look at those who perished: Five of those who died were Iraqis who were working closely with America? In other words, collaborators. One Saudi, Indonesian and three Chinese intelligence officers were also wiped out.

… And then there was the wedding party. OK, so the guests were part of Jordan’s upper echelons of society, others had flown in from America and were known for their close ties to the monarchy. But that still doesn’t mean they should be punished for their status in life. Interesting though, that the bombers chose the bars serving alcohol for their martyrdom operations in two of the hotels. Now while we know alcohol is strictly haram, it’s an Islamic ruling which the King of Jordan chooses to openly ignore, and in a Muslim country. King Abdullah is a chip off the old block, really. Well they say the apple does not fall far from the tree. You see he is protected by his CIA bosses and looked after by Mossad.

… As I said earlier in this column, it is very hard to justify the deaths of innocents. But you know, I wonder if you see that attack on the Jordanian hotels in a different light now? But let’s get back to the original theme of this column – black sheep and family honor. I think I’d rather put up with a brother like Abu Musab al-Zarqawi any day than have a traitor or sell-out for a father, son or grandfather.”

Tom Gross adds: More of Ms. Ridley’s writings can be found on her website Some might describe her opinions since her capture and release as a classic case of the “Stockholm syndrome.” As the British journalist friend of mine who subscribes to this list and blogs under the pseudonym “Harry” (and who needs to remain anonymous because of his employer), points out: “Ridley writes in the article that ‘it is very hard to justify the deaths of innocents’ – but you did pretty well though Yvonne; nine out of ten for effort.”



The Sunday Times of London has reported on its front page that there are plans to build a massive mosque holding 40,000 worshippers next to the forthcoming Olympic complex in London.

It is envisaged that the mosque will open in time for the London Olympic Games in 2012. The mosque and its surrounding buildings will hold a total of 70,000 people, only 10,000 fewer than the Olympic stadium.

According to the Sunday Times, Tablighi Jamaat, a worldwide Islamic missionary group, is proposing that the mosque serve as its new world headquarters. “It will be something never seen before in this country. It is a mosque for the future as part of the British landscape,” said Abdul Khalique, a senior member of Tablighi Jamaat.

Two years ago, according to The New York Times, a senior FBI anti-terrorism official claimed Tablighi Jamaat was a recruiting ground for al-Qaeda.

It is also alleged that the mastermind of the July 7 London bombings, Mohammad Sidique Khan, had attended the current headquarters of Tablighi Jamaat in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire in Leeds.



The website of British supermarket Tesco has withdrawn several anti-Semitic and far right publications from its online bookstore following complaints from an anti-Fascist magazine.

Searchlight magazine discovered titles such as “The Hitler We Loved and Why,” “The International Jew” and “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” on the Tesco website. describes itself as “the largest grocery homeshopping service in the world.”

It is ironic that Tesco, which is now one of the world’s leading supermarkets chains with branches all over the world, was originally founded by a British Jew named Jack Cohen who had just returned from serving in the Royal Air Force in World War One. It is now a public company.

Mark Gardner, director of communications for the Jewish Community Security Trust, (and also a subscriber to this email list), said it was “inexplicable and shameful” that Tesco would sell such material.



During the 1980s, London Mayor Ken Livingstone was famously described by The Sun newspaper as “the most odious man in Britain.”

Several of Livingstone’s harshest comments have been reserved for British Jews and for the state of Israel. For example, last February, in an unprovoked remark as he was leaving a reception at City Hall, Livingstone compared Oliver Finegold, a reporter for London’s Evening Standard newspaper (whom the mayor knew was Jewish), to a Nazi concentration camp guard.

Livingstone (who continues to receive widespread support among British Muslims and left-wingers) continues to refuse to apologize for these statements, even though the London Assembly passed a unanimous vote asking Livingstone to apologize. Livingstone has stood by his comments saying “the form of words I have used are right. I have nothing to apologize for.”

The Standards Board for England (which monitors English local government standards) has now referred the case against Livingstone to the “Adjudication Panel for England.” Sanctions against Livingstone could range from a censure to a five-year ban from public office. The matter will be addressed for two days on December 13-14, 2005.



Following the July London transport bombs, Livingstone described the attacks as “mass murder” by “cowardly terrorists”. Yet when asked on BBC Radio 4’s influential “Today” programme about the British suicide bombers in Tel Aviv in 2003, he said it “was wrong to brand a British Muslim boy a terrorist if he got involved in Palestinian violence against Israel.”

In comments which some fear are likely to provoke further attacks by British Muslims against British Jews, Livingstone also suggested that “Jewish boys in Britain” had contributed to the “slaughter” of Palestinians.

In March of this year, writing in The Guardian, Mayor Livingstone branded Ariel Sharon a “war criminal” and condemned Israel for “ethnic cleansing.”



Now, in a run up to the December 13 hearing, Livingstone has decided to try and defend himself to his Jewish constituents not by giving an interview to, for example, the Jewish Chronicle (which might have asked him some tough questions) but by granting an interview to the obscure website In the interview, which has also been republished on the Israeli portal Ynetnews, Mayor Livingstone entertains the notion that he is Jewish.

Livingstone says that “there’s no evidence of where my maternal grandmother came from, she was called Zona. And I remember a couple of times when I was a kid, she would say to me, ‘don’t let anyone ever tell you you’re Jewish.’ Which made me think we must be, otherwise why would she raise this?”



After mentioning that he could be Jewish, Livingstone goes on: “I could go and stand for the Knesset, couldn’t I? In Israel I could be elected, no problem.” And then he adds: “I could be a self-hater, couldn’t I?”

Livingstone’s fascination of the possibility of his being a “self-hater” may stem from the way some sections of the British media have eagerly promoted, even glorified, a small band of very vociferous extremely anti-Israel (and in some cases anti-Semitic) Jews, some of whom have made a name for themselves slandering Jews. For example, on Monday, Norman Finkelstein, an American Jew, was interviewed on BBC Radio 4’s flagship “Today” program, and given carte blanche to demonize fellow Jews.

Attached below is an extract from Ken Livingstone’s interview. (I am not including the full version because it is too long.) In the interview, he compares the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas to American and British armed forces. He also compares the former Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who was democratically elected and gave up substantial chunks of the West Bank when in office, to Hamas, whose charter calls for the destruction of Israel.

He also says the present Israeli government is “the worst Israel has ever had – there was a chance of peace but Sharon has relentlessly ground down everybody else.”

(For previous dispatches on Livingstone, see:
* London’s mayor still refuses to apologize for “Nazi remark” (February 18, 2005)
* Egypt state TV blames Israel for Sinai bombings (& more on Mayor Livingstone) (July 27, 2005).)



In the dispatch Tehran Times today: The phenomenal lie of the “Holocaust” (& Ha’aretz’s dangerous misreporting) (November 10, 2005), in a note titled “A tale of two mayors: Rome and London,” I pointed out the differences between the reactions to the Iranian president’s speech calling for the annihilation of Israel, of Livingstone (who did nothing) and of Rome’s mayor, Walter Veltroni (who led an estimated 10,000 Italians in a torchlight protest outside the Iranian embassy in Rome, protesting President Ahmadinejad’s comments).

A new article in the Israeli publication Yediot Ahronot by Yaakov Lappin (who is a subscriber to this email list) takes up this theme. In the article (attached below), Lappin speaks of “a tale of two cities, London and Rome, facing a similar threat from the direction of Islamic terror but being led in radically different directions.”



A note in the dispatch The real apartheid: Saudi teacher to be flogged for 15 weeks for praising Jews (November 17, 2005) called for “moderate Muslims to raise their voices.”

The New Statesman, which only recently ran a special Israel issue with articles by anti-Israel writers Avi Shlaim, Robert Fisk and Chris McGreal, carries an article in this week’s issue by a moderate Muslim, Ziauddin Sardar.

In his piece (attached below), Sardar examines the motivation of Mohammad Sidique Khan and questions why Mayor Livingstone’s frequent guest Sheikh Qaradawi “finds it difficult to condemn Palestinian suicide bombers.”

This article makes some claims about Islam that are rarely voiced by Muslims writing for leftist publications like The New Statesman: for example, that suicide is “a cardinal sin in Islam” and that “suicide bombers are not heroes but murderers, pure and simple... – in Palestine as elsewhere.”

-- Tom Gross



London mayor: Israel caused bloodshed
In interview with a British Jewish website, Ken Livingstone answers critics on range of issues, from his clashes with Board of Deputies of British Jews to his views on Israel; says, ‘I think Zionism is like every other form of nationalism. It can be inspiring or it can have a dark side; it’s perfectly valid to question creation of Israel’
By Leslie Bunder
Yediot Ahronot
November 17, 2005,7340,L-3170452,00.html

Q. You are often outspoken about the Israeli government and in particular its prime minister Ariel Sharon. How do you feel when the Board of Deputies of British Jews denounces you for that?

Ken Livingstone: The Board of Deputies – and the Jewish Chronicle is their mouthpiece – have this idea that anyone who’s critical of Israel gets denounced as being anti-Semitic, so as a result the average spineless politician never says anything about the Middle East again.

I just think this is an insult to everyone’s intelligence, I mean when you look at how rude I have been about Mrs. Thatcher’s government, or any successive American one there’s nothing out of line that strengthens my criticism on the Israeli government.

I didn’t notice anyone complaining when I said the Saudi royal family should be hanging from lampposts. The Foreign Office did, and the Saudi ambassador did, but governments need good criticism. I stood in front of Mrs. Thatcher in the House Of Commons and accused her of being an accomplice to treason. I’ve been this rude about governments and I think it is good for them, but there’s this huge sensitivity around this.

I’ve been offering to go and meet the Board of Deputies for at least a generation, and I would love nothing better than to go and have a real and honest debate about what is and isn’t wrong. But I’m not in the position to broker a Middle East peace deal. If I was, I would. The main player is America, if they prop up Sharon’s government; it’s going to do what it wants.

Q. When the name Ken Livingstone is mentioned to many Jewish Londoners, and indeed Jewish groups such as the Board of Deputies, it incites very strong feelings. Why do you feel there are such negative feelings towards you, from certain sections of the Jewish community?

K.L: I remember the defense committee of the Board back in the mid-80s said I was the biggest threat to British Jewry since Oswald Moseley and I thought that’s a smidgeon over the top. Perhaps some might believe it; I don’t think most of them do.

Because when I became leader of the GLC in London we worked with Arab groups, as we work with any other group, and the Board of Deputies also asked me to give them a veto over Jewish groups we funded.

They didn’t want me funding the Jewish socialist group, the Jewish Lesbian and Gay Group – and we said no. The Board of Deputies is probably the biggest single strand of opinion in Judaism in Britain, but it’s not unanimous. I mean, lovely old lady came in, when I reaching up to buy my copy of the Jewish Chronicle in Waitrose, and said, “they don’t speak for all of us,” and it’s so true.

If you actually look at the vote last summer for Mayor, 18 months ago, you will find that you were six per cent more likely to vote for me if you were Jewish than if you were non-Jewish.

And I’ve had 25 years of demonization and being denounced as anti-Semitic, and of course half the population in London – I get more of the Jewish vote than Tony Blair – people were 12 per cent more likely to vote for me if they were Jewish than to vote for Tony Blair’s government – and they must be one of the most pro-Israeli that we’ve had.

So yes, while there are a lot of people who hate my guts because of the position I take on the Middle East, equally there’s a huge body of Jewish Londoners who have watched me for 25 years and they know it’s crap to denounce me as anti-Semitic.

I am just critical of the state of Israel, but then so are they. I think for people who aren’t Jewish they think the Board speaks for Judaism, but they no more do that than the Muslim Council of Britain speaks for Muslims. They’re strands, and they are important.

I have to say though, when my predecessors on the British left in the 1930s - the socialists and the communists and trade unionists – were all campaigning and calling for a boycott of Nazi Germany; the Board of Deputies opposed it. They are one strand of opinion, they’re often wrong, sometimes they’re right, but they don’t speak for the community any more than I speak for London. Some Londoners agree with me, some don’t, but I never wander round saying “I am the voice of London,” I’m just me, I get elected.

Q. Talking about the incident with the reporter from the Standard, do you think that was a witch-hunt against you?

K.L: It was quite clearly orchestrated, I mean here was Brian Coleman (London Assembly Member), who was the driving force, and then it turned to Tim Donovan (BBC London), and was overheard by Nicky Gavron the Deputy Mayor, saying this is all theatre, and of course that’s exactly what it was.

And three things came together – the Board of Deputies wanted me to keep quiet, so I thought “big attack on Ken Livingstone, better keep my head down for a couple of years.”

Then the Tory Party at the time was trying to run this ridiculous campaign that Labor’s deeply anti-Semitic – that Fagin poster.

And of course the Standard’s very nervous about the fact that I will shortly be able to let the contract for the rival evening paper. So all these things came together to be able to put the boot in for Ken Livingstone, and I have to say it was really stupid.

Imagine if, in December, the Board of Deputies case results in my removal from office. Can you imagine? I mean people have an opinion about whether or not I was rude to a reporter and that’s justified, but the Board of Deputies could use this mechanism to remove me from office someone they disagree with me politically…it would be very damaging for the Board’s reputation but also every anti-Semitic fantasist around the world would say “The Board removed the Mayor of London who was automatically replaced by a Jewish Mayor.”

Someone would find it was all written down in the protocols of the elders of Zion by the time the day’s finished, you know? I think they should have thought it through. You don’t set out on something that you then are not in control of…




A tale of two cities
London, Rome mayors hold different views on anti-Israel bigotry
By Yaakov Lappin
Yediot Ahronot
November 21, 2005,7340,L-3172684,00.html

The mayors of London and Rome seem, at first glance, to have much in common. Both Ken Livingstone and Walter Veltroni are in charge of major European capitals, which face concrete threats of Islamic terrorist attacks. London has already been attacked last July, while Rome has been threatened on numerous occasions by al-Qaeda and associated jihad groups.

Both Livingstone and Veltroni began their careers on the far Left; Livingstone is known in London as “Red Ken” for his diehard socialist views, and today occupies the radical fringe of the Labour party (from which he was temporarily ejected), while Veltroni kicked off his political life in the Italian Young Communist Federation, before joining the Left-Wing Democrat party.

This, however, is where the similarities end. On November 3, following a statement by Iran’s President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, calling for Israel to be “wiped off the map,” Veltroni participated in a large-scale pro-Israel demonstration in Rome, attended by 20,000 people, and senior Italian politicians from the Left and the Right.

“My presence here is natural,” Veltroni told the Italian crowds who came to rally against Iran’s menacing stance, “because the statements by Iran’s president should be taken seriously. It is only natural that a city that advocates peace and dialogue object to any kind of intolerance,” he added.

Two weeks later, in an interview with the UK’s SomethingJewish website, Ken Livingstone said that questioning the morality of Israel’s foundation was “a perfectly valid thing to say after so many wars.”

In London, the far Left has joined forces with the most curious of bed fellows, Islamists. Socialist groups work alongside the UK’s Muslim Brotherhood branch to build political blocs. Delegitimization and demonization of Israel is neither rare, nor do they cause public uproar in the British capital.

In 2004, Livingstone invited, as a personal guest of honor, the Qatar-based Muslim Brotherhood hard line cleric, Sheikh Yousuf Qaradawi, who publicly advocates the execution of gays, wife beatings, and suicide bombings in Israel. Livingstone, who provided Qaradawi with a red carpet treatment, defends him as a “progressive.”

Qaradawi, on his London visit, told the BBC of his view of Palestinian suicide bomb attacks: “I consider this type of martyrdom operation as an evidence of God’s justice.”

“Here is the force that we need to engage with if we are to actually get a dialogue,” said the London mayor about Qaradawi.

In 2003, before the overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s regime, the Iraqi dictator’s deputy, Tariq Aziz, visited the Italian capital. Aziz refused to take a question from an Israeli journalist at a press conference, saying: “It was not in my agenda to answer questions by the Israeli media.”

Although Aziz was scheduled to meet with Veltroni, Rome’s mayor wrote to Aziz:: “I wish to inform you that I find myself obliged to cancel our meeting. The reason is because of your refusal to answer a question posed to you by an Israeli journalist at a news conference held at the Foreign Press Association. Rome, Mr. Deputy Prime Minister, has always had absolute respect for dialogue and the civil exchange of ideas, not to mention, obviously, freedom of opinion and free access to information.”

He continued: “I cannot accept that a public figure like yourself, the representative of another country, can set a veto and discriminate against someone, denying them the right to express themselves, creating vetoes and discrimination.”

This, then, is a tale of two cities, London and Rome, facing a similar threat from the direction of Islamic terror but being led in radically different directions. London, a rich multi-cultural metropolis, is being betrayed by a mayor in deep embrace with dubious and sinister figures, entrenched in the camp of the most radical fundamentalist movement of the 21st century. Livingstone not only wants to appease those who threaten his capital - he also genuinely shares some of their attitudes.

Rome, on the other hand, is being led by a man with the moral courage to stand up for the enlightened values of universal human rights and pluralism. Its ever vigilant mayor denounces and confronts poisonous bigotry, wherever he finds it.

For now, that bigotry is festering in London, under the shadowy watch of its mayor.



On the culture of martyrdom
By Ziauddin Sardar
The New Statesman
November 28, 2005

If suicide killing was a viable weapon of just war, then the Prophet Muhammad would have used it

What are we to make of a semi-literate teaching assistant exhorting young British Muslims to commit suicide? Mohammad Sidique Khan, who blew himself up at Edgware Road in London on 7 July, has sent a message from the grave. In a video recorded just before his death, Khan calmly addresses his audience. “Muslims,” he says to the camera in a distinctly Yorkshire accent, “I strongly advise you to sacrifice this life for the hereafter.”

Blowing yourself up in the middle of a crowd is an act of ethics in the name of Allah, according to Khan. His head covered by a red-and-white checked keffiyeh, the uniform of choice for would-be suicide bombers, the 30-year-old murderer rants against British Muslim leaders. It is “a sin”, he announces, not to declare “jihad” on the west.

It is easy to dismiss Khan as an immature, self-deluded and dangerous imbecile. He saw himself as a hero in a Shakespearean tragedy and killed, and was killed, in playing out his fantasy. But where did Khan acquire his logic and rhetoric? Did he learn all this simply from his patrons in al-Qaeda?

I think the initial draw, the impulse that drove Khan to the bosom of al-Qaeda, is to be found elsewhere. It lies in the sick culture that glorifies “martyrdom” and projects young suicide bombers as heroes. Al-Qaeda may have capitalised on this culture, but it has been intrinsic in certain segments of Muslim societies for at least two decades. Those who may be attracted to Khan’s message are fascinated not so much with what he says as with the heroic image that he portrays.

The origins of this culture lie in the Iranian revolution. Martyrdom has always been important for Shia Muslims, but the designation of “martyr” has conventionally been reserved for historic figures who fought for ethical goals through ethical means - and never harmed an innocent person. The revolution, as I discovered when I visited Iran immediately after Ayatollah Khomeini came to power, debased the currency of martyrdom. Martyrs were two a penny. Every town in the country, big or small, now has at least one “Martyrs’ Square”.

Then in the Eighties came the Iran-Iraq war. During the eight-year conflict Iran freely used teenage conscripts as cannon fodder. A whole generation of young people was sacrificed on the battlefield. All of them, naturally, became martyrs. And fountains of “blood” - actually coloured water - gushed forth in Martyrs’ Squares throughout Iran. I found the whole spectacle truly obscene.

The Iranian revolutionaries exported the culture of “martyrdom operations” first into Lebanon and then into Palestine. In Palestine there is now a thriving culture of celebrating suicide bombers as “martyrs”, expressed most extensively as poster art. Posters plastered all over Gaza and the West Bank depict suicide bombers in heroic modes.

This culture is embraced by people who ought to know better. The Egyptian scholar Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a frequent visitor to London, finds it difficult to condemn Palestinian suicide bombers. Various prominent members of the Muslim Brotherhood in Britain have condemned suicide bombing elsewhere but have supported its use in Palestine.

Their argument is simple. The sheer helplessness and despair of the Palestinians justify the use of the human body as a weapon. They have little else to fight with. And killing civilians in a bus or a restaurant is also considered OK - the Palestinians are only taking revenge for what is done to them.

I have four things to say to those who, however reluctantly, support suicide bombings in Palestine. One, if suicide killing was a viable weapon of a just war, however conceived, then the Prophet Muhammad himself would have used it. He had ample opportunity to do so. Two, a Muslim community cannot really be in a state of despair - however bad its situation. Indeed, despair in Islam is a cardinal sin. As classical Muslim scholars have repeatedly pointed out, despair signifies rejection of God’s mercy and abandonment of hope. The very raison d’etre of Islam is to provide hope. Three, suicide is also a cardinal sin in Islam. Life is the ultimate gift of God: nothing signifies ingratitude more than taking your own life - whatever the cause. According to Islam, suicide is one thing that God may never forgive. Four, taking one innocent life is, according to the Koran, like murdering all humanity. Indeed, even in a fully fledged state of war, killing innocent women and children is forbidden. You can fight only against those who fight against you on a battlefield.

The great and good scholars who support suicide bombings in Palestine know all this better than I do. Which makes their position even more perverse. They practise double standards: it is OK there but not here. And they provide legitimacy for the likes of Khan to take an inductive leap - from Palestine to London to everywhere.

Khan, as many Muslim leaders in Britain have rightly pointed out, is an anomaly. But the only way to prevent recurrence of such incongruity is to stand up unambiguously against all suicide bombings everywhere - in Palestine as elsewhere. And to denounce, loudly and clearly, the vile culture of martyrdom. Suicide bombers are not heroes but murderers, pure and simple.

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.